Are Video Game Fanboys the Ugly Side of Fandom?

Fanboys, the Dark Side of Gaming?

LAN gaming party, image: Calamuchita

Fanboys are like the ugly duckling of fandom subculture, and deservedly so. Are there are swans among them? I am sure. But first, what is a fanboy?

The term fanboy is used for video game fans who are, depending on who you ask, either loyal and passionate customers or snobby cyberbullies.

On one hand, you have the fans who would camp for days for a game release to be the first to buy.

On the other hand, you get the first people to go online and decry how bad the game is and threaten whoever dares to contradict them. They will be the ones to give a game a zero review in Rotten Tomatoes for stupid things like not enough zombies.

How is a fanboy different than a gamer?

The gamer plays the game as a hobby and has their brand alliances. The fanboy does too, but there is a certain elitism and vitriol to them.

video game fanboys, image: Pinterest

Fanboys are nothing new but the internet and social media have given them a forum and do they abuse it.

For example, look at the backlash (granted, deserved) to the release of Cyberpunk 2077.

The gamer is happy buying, playing, and collecting what he likes. The fanboy (and fangirls too) will take the hobby to an extreme. A toxic one. And complaint about every inconsequential thing.

Conversely, fanboys’ universal hate for microtransactions is acceptable.

By the way, the first misconception is that they are a monolith. They aren’t. They divide themselves among tribes.

PC versus console? X-box versus PlayStation? Nintendo is for kids; real gamers play CoD. CoD is for idiots; Mario requires skill… You can see where the arguments are going.

Indeed, this is an extreme example of tribalism (the behaviors associated with extreme loyalty to one’s tribe or social group.

Whatever happened to playing video games for fun and escapism? Aren’t games supposed to be fun? Can we all get along?

The Problem With Fanboys

video game fanboys, image: Canal 13 San Juan

First, let’s be clear, in fairness, to some degree we are all fanboys. We all have preferences. It is rare for a person who can play everything or owns everything (or has the time and money to do so). Some people prefer some features to others.

For instance, some people prefer pressing buttons (raises hand); others are happy with point-and-click gameplay (the PC crowd). These are preferences. No need to go to war over it.

Some fans love RPGs and hence, buy PlayStation. Other fans are attracted to first-person shooters, hence they buy X-Box.

Others are happily playing Mario Kart or Pokémon all day, hence, Nintendo fulfills their needs.

This is an oversimplification but it shows how fans divide themselves alongside brands and genres. Furthermore, some even alongside particular games.

video game fanboys, image: EyZmaster/Deviant Art

There is a joke (it is not really a joke) about which gaming community is more toxic. Is it the Minecraft kids? The Halo dudebros? Perhaps the SmashBros players? Who are worse, the Overwatch or Fortnite fans? Sonic or Mario? Maybe is the Final Fantasy fanboys? League of Legends? Rumor is Undertale.

Sadly, why can we enjoy our hobbies and play our games? Why do we feel the need to convert others to our opinion? Why the need to harass those who disagree with us? Why?

Gaming as a hobby is constantly under fire by conservatives whenever there is a school shooting. In effect, they are the usual scapegoat for everything bad with the current generation. Bad grades, poor finances, poor social skills, poor health, bad life choices? Blame video games.

As a gamer, it saddens me.

This is an interactive storytelling medium. The true new art of the last century (alongside anime). Why are we giving it a bad reputation?

Moreover, why is gaming so unwelcoming to casuals and new players? When did ‘noob’ become an insult? Don’t we want to grow the hobby? Can gaming be saved?

How to Save Gaming from Fanboys?

hardcore X-box fan, image: Game Debate

Before we can offer solutions, we need to understand where they come from. All the elitism and snobbery hints at low self-esteem. There is a craving for attention, as in we are better than you because I play x game or own x console.

Likewise, the anger and abuse hint at unhappiness with their real lives. The irony is that most people play video games to escape the dullness of their routines, not to encounter further stress.

Tribalism has served a purpose in human evolution. People band together for cooperation and survival.

Likeminded people join groups seeking acceptance.

Yet, fanboys belong to a group in name only. Even when you can play games online with millions of people around the world, in the end, it is just you on your couch by yourself.

Furthermore, the anonymity of hiding behind a username and an avatar allows people to show their worst selves without fearing repercussions.

FIFA players, image: Freepik

I have been bullied while playing online. I still remember the first time people typed KYS in a game chat. I did not know what it meant. Keep it simple? Kiss your shorts? It was not a single instance.

When a Google search returned “kill yourself”, I was frozen. Who could wish something like that in another human being? Over an online game? Not that I am an innocent pigeon. I had cursed many times at other players online.

We gamers as a community need to do better. Hence, here are my suggestions:

  • Show respect and tolerance to other players who are not at your skill level. They are trying to have fun too.
  • Be humble. So you can afford a PlayStation 5 from a scalper? Or an upscale PC with all bells and whistles? It does not make you superior to those of us who live paycheck to paycheck.
  • Gamers need more accessibility and support. And online matchmaking needs to be optimized.
  • Likewise, repeat cheaters and trolls need to be banned or suspended.
  • We need as a community to listen more and be less judgemental or risk the hobby becoming a bigger target of those forces who oppose the gaming community. Do not give them ammunition.

CoExist console gamers, image: Obilisk

Finally, instead of dividing ourselves among invisible tribal lines, we should welcome casuals and just accept there is diversity in gaming. A bigger tent benefits us all. More gamers, more budgets for better games.

Can we go back to the days of friendly banter and trash talk among friends without murder and suicide in our hearts?

Reader, have you been harassed online by other gamers? How can we make gaming more welcoming? Can fanboy culture improve?

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March 2023